New Car BMW 5-SERIES 2011
bottom line
  • De-Bangled lines
  • Simpler, more appealing dash
  • Choice of turbo six- or eight-cylinders
  • Revamped iDrive
  • Watch for crash-test scores
  • Lots of electronics to learn

The new 5-Series will include a wagon variant, but plans for that model in the U.S. are uncertain. BMW's 5-Series Gran Turismo has almost all the benefits of a station wagon with a somewhat more sedan-like profile.'s editors have prepared this preview of the 2011 BMW 5-Series sedan and wagon from information and photos released by the manufacturer. TCC's editors will update this 5-Series preview as BMW releases more data, and will bring you their Bottom Line road test summary as soon as vehicles are provided for test drives.

Say auf wiedersehen to today's BMW 5-Series. A new lineup of sedans and wagons is brewing, and BMW has released the basics on the new four-door sedan due to arrive in the U.S. next year as a 2011 model. The new version shares running gear with the 2010 BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo driven by earlier this year; it also has some close relationship with the latest BMW 7-Series, which was new for 2009. Though it's new from the ground up, the latest 5er still competes against the sedans you'd expect: the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the Audi A6, the Lexus GS and the Infiniti M.

As it did with the latest 7-Series, BMW's left the oddly proportioned themes championed by former design chief Chris Bangle on the drawing-room floor. This time, the 2011 5-Series reacquaints itself with classically BMW proportions-lean glass areas, a steeply raked windshield, and a long-hood stance that's much more muscular than today's car. The 5-Series' wheelbase has grown longer, giving BMW chief designer Adrian von Hooydonk more expanses and surfaces to give the mid-size BMW a distinct identity. BMW says the 5's forward-tilted grille, tightly cornered Hofmeister kink (the curve at the roof and the rear pillar), and the gently curves shoulders create a standout shape that's scented with coupe-like appeal. Inside, the 5-Series benefits from a fresh take on function: the old car's dark, overstyled shapes have been smoothed out and cleaned up, with handsome expanses of wood trim outlined in delicate metallic lines. Four large gauges have an LCD sub-panel that can indicate navigation and secondary displays. It's a "fresh ambiance," BMW says, and's witnessed in the Gran Turismo, the 5-Series' new interior is more open and instantly appealing than the prior car. Per the BMW philosophy, controls for the driver only are to the left of the steering wheel; shared controls for driver and front passenger rest in the center stack and console.

As with the 5-Series Gran Turismo, the new 2011 5-Series sedan will come to the U.S. with a pair of engines. The future will bring a normally aspirated, 3.0-liter in-line six with 240 horsepower; at launch, BMW will offer a turbocharged version of the same engine that will produce 300 hp and 300 pound-feet of torque. The optional powerplant will be a twin-turbo, 4.4-liter V-8 with 400 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque. With this engine, BMW expect a 0-60 mph time of 5.0 seconds, and a top speed of 130 mph (which rises to 155 mph with an optional sport package). That's nearly as fast as today's 2010 BMW M5 sedan. Both engines are fitted with direct injection and both are coupled to either a six-speed manual gearbox or an eight-speed automatic.

Electronics invade the new 5-Series' driving systems, as they have in the 2010 Gran Turismo. The basic suspension setup uses control arms and links, instead of the classic BMW strut. Steering is electronically assisted, and there are multiple systems to control all manner of driving inputs, starting with optional Integral Active Steering, which can dial in small directional changes to the rear wheels to turn tighter corners. Electronic Damper Control gives the shocks infinite variability, based on acceleration and cornering forces, while Active Roll Stabilization gives a twist to the anti-roll bars when the 5-Series heads into corners and needs more roll stiffness. Driving Dynamics Control allows the driver to select Comfort, Normal, Sport and Sport+ modes for steering feel, throttle quickness, and transmission shift quality. The latter three e-systems are bundled together under the Adaptive Drive moniker-steer over to's review of the 2010 BMW 5-series Gran Turismo for opinions on how they affect handling in that closely related car. Finally, there's a virtual limited-slip differential: when the 5-Series's traction control is disabled and the car's anti-lock braking sensors detect wheelspin, small amounts of braking are applied to the wheel to simulate a mechanical limited-slip device. Braking is nearly as advanced, with electronic controls to help reduce the effects of brake fade, to assist heavy braking under fast deceleration, and to dry the rotors in wet weather. The 5-Series will even hold the brakes on a hill to prevent rollback.

BMW promises more interior room and comfort in the 2011 5-Series. With manual-shifting cars, a split center console divides the front power-operated bucket seats. Automatic-equipped cars get a single console with twin cupholders and a key holder. A third cupholder sits behind BMW's iDrive controller. In terms of seating space, BMW says the rear-seat legroom has grown by 0.5 inches; they promise the trunk is nearly the size of the 2010 Ford Taurus trunk at 18.2 cubic feet, and have fitted a folding rear seat for more cargo flexibility.

The 2010 BMW 5-Series sedan scores poorly in driver-side crash tests from the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). BMW is intent on improving those scores with the new 2011 sedan. It features dual front, side and curtain airbags standard. There are options for a rearview and "Top View" cameras for parking assistance, and a Parking Assistant device that calculates if the sedan will fit in a space. Active cruise control, lane-departure warning and blind-spot warning systems will be offered, along with a night-vision setup, adaptive headlamps with automatic high beams, and Collision Warning braking, which senses imminent impacts and can apply full brake force to prevent them.

The myriad of driving and safety electronics find road-trip companions inside the 2011 BMW 5-Series' cabin. Basic equipment includes telescoping steering; 10-way power front seats; an AM/FM/CD audio system with auxiliary input; power windows, locks and mirrors; cruise control; and ash trim. Leather seating is available on the 535i and standard on the 550i, with Nappa leather an option. BMW's iDrive controller is standard on all sedans, and offers streamlined usability, along with a larger screen. The optional DVD navigation system can be controlled through iDrive along with audio systems, optional iPod connections, and even with the available head-up display.

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